Waveform analyzers must closely match specific test and measurement needs of aerospace and defense applications

By Courtney Howard

When considering test and measurement equipment, not all waveform analyzers are the same, and so professionals should carefully consider the specifications and capabilities of the models available and weigh them against the specific needs of their military and aerospace application.

First, it is important to understand the relationship between the waveform to be analyzed and the specifications of the equipment performing the signal analysis, explains Darren McCarthy, RF technical marketing manager at Tektronix in Beaverton, Ore. The most common method of analyzing modern waveforms is the use of vector signal analyzers, or fast Fourier transform (FFT)-based analysis techniques. “It is important that all the waveform information is captured within the communication channel for a finite period of time; however, most dynamic range specifications on spectrum analyzers are represented by swept analysis techniques and have no correlation to the vector analysis applications,” McCarthy describes.

The system’s ability to capture and analyze not only repetitive signals, but also intermittent or time-varying signals is another major consideration when selecting the optimal waveform analyzer. “The true power of a waveform analyzer comes with its ability to not only analyze what signal(s) is supposed to be present, but to also analyze the signals that are not supposed to be there,” says Sue Guzman, Aeroflex Cupertino general manager and vice president of Aeroflex Test Solutions in Cupertino, Calif. “Critical to this ability is the need for simultaneously displaying the captured waveform in all 3 domains: time, frequency, and modulation.”

When selecting a signal analyzer to evaluate waveforms, consider RF frequency, information or acquisition bandwidth, and signal fidelity (dynamic range) within the acquisition bandwidth and at the frequency of interest, McCarthy advises. “You need to be able to tune to the frequency of interest,” he says. Information bandwidth, on the other hand, relates to the instantaneous FFT bandwidth that can be continually processed for analysis. “If your waveform hops over multiple channels, and you are interested in the analysis of the waveform during the hopping transitions, your information bandwidth of your signal analyzer must be able to seamlessly capture the entire hopping transitions over multiple channels.”

Signal fidelity also needs to be considered under the representative waveform conditions. “At microwave frequencies, in order to enable wide instantaneous bandwidths, many spectrum analyzers need to remove preselection filters that limit bandwidth and distort the incoming signal,” McCarthy cautions. “During these conditions, the analyzer specifications no longer apply!”

Today’s technologies provide a much more capable platform for waveform analyzers, including wider instantaneous bandwidths, much higher speed, much deeper signal memory, and many more software analysis features that at one time only were available as post-processing capabilities on computers separate from the waveform analyzer itself,” Guzman admits. “The instantaneous bandwidth available determines the fastest pulses that can be analyzed or determines the widest frequency signal which can be measured,” she describes.

The system should offer modularity, enabling upgrades as better performing analog-to-digital converters (A/D converters) and faster processors become available, without causing the user to purchase an entirely new system each time, Guzman adds. The breadth of analysis capability present in the software/firmware of the system, especially the variety of data visualization options and the number of different demodulation types supported, is key, she says.

“Software option flexibility enables the analyzer to be used for multiple purposes: phase noise testing, signal source tester, peak/channel power meter, modulation analyzer, oscilloscopes, and frequency counter,” McCarthy explains, describing the new Tektronix RSA6120A. As a result, such systems—capable of many different automated scalar and vector pulse analysis parameters, for example—can replace several instruments usually required for accurate pulse performance characterization.

The depth and speed of the signal memory available, which determines how long of a waveform recording can be taken or determines how well intermittent signals can be captured, is another important consideration, Guzman describes. “Longer waveform recordings capture a more complete picture of the signal or environment being tested.”

In short, says McCarthy, the measurement utility and performance can give you the confidence you need to design the most advanced radio and radar applications. “Read the specifications, and ask how they apply to your waveform analysis needs,” he recommends.

When choosing a waveform analyzer, do not lock yourself into a corner, Guzman cautions. “Select one that has the hardware modularity to adapt to newer A/D converter and processing capability, and one that has the software/firmware architecture that allows the system to easily add new demodulation or analysis functions. You need to invest in a test solution that can grow with you, not one that traps you in the past.”

Company Information

Aeroflex Inc., Plainview, N.Y., 516-694-6700, www.aeroflex.com

Agilent Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., 408-345-8886, www.agilent.com

Anritsu Company, Morgan Hill, Calif., 408-778-2000, www.us.anritsu.com

Keithley Instruments Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, 440-248-0400, www.keithley.com

LeCroy Corp., Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., 845-425-2000, www.lecroy.com

National Instruments Corp., Austin, Texas, 800-531-5066, www.ni.com

Rohde & Schwarz North America, Irvine, Calif., 949-885-7000, www.rohde-schwarz.com/USA

Tektronix Inc., Beaverton, Ore., 800-833-9200, www.tek.com

Subscribe to Avionics Intelligence


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Optical Switches

Multiport (N x M) Optical Switches from large core, multimode and Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) for...

PowerDNA-PPC5 Cube

5-layer, 100Base-T I/O, Data Acquisition and Control Cube with PowerPC CPU and SD slot. Has slots...

PowerDNR-MIL Rack

12- slot, Military style I/O rack with Military/Rugged 38999 connectivity, 100% COTS solution, su...

PowerDNR RACKtangle®

3U Gigabit Ethernet Data Acquisition and control rack United Electronic Industries allows the ins...

DNA-1553-553

Dual Channel MIL-STD-1553 interface board for Cube I/O chassis with 2 independent, dual redundant...

PowerDNR HalfRACK

Half-width 3U Gigabit Ethernet Data Acquisition and control chassis allows the installation of up...

UEINet™ Ultra Compact Gigabit Ethernet I/O Module

The UEINet™ Series Ethernet I/O module (Cube) is an ultra compact data acquisition, control and I...

FLATRACK™ Ethernet I/O DAQ Platform

FLATRACK™ Ethernet I/O DAQ Platform accommodates installation of up to four I/O boards, completes...

PCI Board PD2-AO-16/16

Is a 16-channel, 16-bit, 100 kS/s per channel PCI analog output board for PCI bus including 16 an...

PowerDNA-MIL

Four-Slot, Military Style I/O Chassis with Military/Rugged 38999 connectivity, 100% COTS solution...

Related Companies

Fibersense & Signals Inc

Develops and manufactures fiberoptic, optoelectronic, photonic and laser-related products for aerospace command and c...

TEN TECH LLC

Is a mechanical engineering consulting company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with operations in Billerica, MA, pro...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

ISVI Corp

ISVI designs, produces and sells machine-vision camera systems combining high-speed and high-resolution sensors with ...

Innovative Integration

  Since 1988, Innovative Integration has grown to become one of the world's leading suppliers of DSP and data ac...

Opco Lab

For over 25 years, OPCO has been renowned for delivering on time and on budget quality optical components, thin film ...

Premier Polymers

Provides seamless epoxy flooring and industrial resinous coatings

CORWIL Technology Corp

CORWIL Technology, the premier US based, IC assembly and test services subcontractor, offering full back-end assembly...

Thermotron Industries

Thermotron is a manufactures environmental test chambers, vibration test systems, HALT/HASS equipment, and functional...

IndustryARC

IndustryARC primarily focuses on Cutting Edge Technologies and Newer Applications of the Market. Our Custom Research ...

Webcasts

Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases

CURTISS-WRIGHT AWARDED CONTRACT BY SIERRA NEVADA CORPORATION

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...

METADATA SUPPORT ENHANCES INDUSTRY-LEADING HD VIDEO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FROM CURTISS-WRIGHT

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE